I first started using Discovery Vitality in 2008, when my work moved locations next door to a newly-built Virgin Active. Back then Vitality was R109, and to get “free” gym within that price was worth it alone. In addition, Vitality took a risk and let you get back a percentage of your spend at Pick n Pay; I think it was for healthy food only, and 25% across the board. All that to say, I made at least R400/m off Discovery, and loved it but… a lot has changed since then! It’s 16 years on now, and Discovery Vitality has become much smarter at plugging all the loopholes, and ironing out its pricing, rewards, and much else. This article below aims to help those who want to join Discovery Vitality for the first time, or, those who haven’t really kept up with the changes, and want to learn them for this current year.

The basics of Discovery Vitality

Essentially, without Vitality, you lose out on a ton of rewards within the Discovery ecosystem. In another article – mainly aimed at Discovery Miles and whther to join Discovery Bank – I outline just the tip of the iceberg, and here I aim to complement the info there, with this article focusing specifically on Discovery Vitality itself. Bear in mind I don’t intend on getting incredibly granular on everything within Discovery, but I will touch on various products/apps/ideas within each. If I was to get super detailed this article, and others on my website, would be just as big as Discovery’s website, so you may as well go there. I mainly want to give overviews, and caveats that will prevent you from wasting time only to give up half way.

The main premise of Vitality is that for a small fee each month (I pay R465/m for a small family, though it is tied to my name – i.e as the main member of Discovery Health it has to run through me) I get about 2-15 times back that fee in cash and rewards. If you are willing and able, it’s very possible to get about R5,000 back in cash each month, and if you choose rather to convert Discovery Miles into rewards (rather than cash) it can probably be up to about R8,000 or R9,000 per month. It’s complicated, but let’s dive in.

the ‘Spend to save’ paradox

Once you’ve paid your R465/month – or only R329 if you are a single member, sans a spouse, a child, etc – you immediately can qualify for some savings. Virgin Active gym was my first one 16 years back – saving 100% of the fees back then, but now it’s only 75%. I currently pay R273, instead of R1,000+/month. But the main reason is the whole “Vitality Active Rewards” represented in three rings. Vitality Exercise, Vitality Drive, and Vitality Money. With each of these “methods” or “channels” you are able to save, and earn in multiple ways. You can only unlock the three via signing up for ‘Vitality’. More on each those next.

1. Vitality Exercise

This one seems so easy when you begin and basically if you reach exercise goals each week you get rewarded. The minimum reward is basically 150 miles (R15 if converted to cash, but worth a coffee if you spend it as miles – the current flat white at Vida is R36, Caffe Mocha R43), but you can get up to 900 miles, my best being 450 to date (ie. three coffees, worth up to R129, technically). However, the big catch is that as you hit your goals each week, they up the ante and it’s harder to complete your weekly goal. For anyone with a little time, it’s pretty easy to make them each week, for at least the first 16-20 weeks, but it does get tough eventually! Add to that, being sick, or having work pressure, or Xmas time, or travelling overseas, or managing a newborn etc etc – and it can be testing to achieve the goals.

Essentially, if you were to do a decent 15-20 minute walk each day, you would easily be able to get 100 points a day, which in a wweek equates to 700 points. You will then probably fulfil your exercise goals for the first 30 weeks or so before you start needing to achieve 750 points in a week. For that, you need to get your heart rate up for more than 30 minutes – eg. walking isn’t going to cut it (unless hiking up a hill), and you will need to jog, or cycle, or swim (or tennis etc).

Why would you want to achieve these goals? There are two main reasons:

a) If you do, you get rewarded each week with Discovery Miles, which equates to a coffee, or some cash, and if you are luck on what they term the “game board” you can get a lot more miles. Let’s say the spectrum runs from 150 miles up to 900 miles – so R15 to R90. The trick is to build them up, and buy something worth R2,000 down the line, but we will get to that later.

b) If you do enough exercise in a year, and couple that with passing tests around your habits, BMI, cholesterol etc, then you can achieve Gold Status, which means you get even more money back from purchases, or discounts – and when those two are used in conjunction, it’s a powerful means of earning and saving. Again, more on that down below.

2. Vitality Drive

Like the above, if you pursue healthy driving behaviours, you will get rewarded. Again, there are some caveats, like paying money to get a vehicle tracker installed on your car, but once things are going well, you will more than make that money back. Currently, my car insurance (including home insurance) is about R400/m cheaper with a competitor than with Discovery Car & Home Insurance – I won’t migrate until their offering is much better, which should happen in 2024, as apparently the three year mark is key; I’ve only had car insurance for 2.5 years, as I was a loyal scooter driver for almost ten years!

However, the fuel rewards, and “good behaviour driving’ rewards in one month will exceed the extra R400/m that I am paying Discovery. Let’s say I spend R1,000 on fuel, and get R400 back for it, then drive well for four weeks, and get R200 back in that regard, then it is worth it. But, the key (I will say this multiple times on ths article and others) is the way you build up combinations of good decisions that Discovery incentivises you to do. So when you buy something with your Miles – let’s say a R1,000 Takealot voucher – with just Vitality Exercise in play, you will get it for R900 (10%) but with Vitality Drive as well, you can get it for R800 (20% off), and of couse, if you are thinking ahead, if you have Vitality Money (below) as well, then it’s 30% off.

So the wise man will do this: Get all three Vitality products, then earn Miles on all three and let them accumulate for months, then buy a giant voucher (maybe R10,000, for argument’s sake) at 30% off with those Miles, and they then have a R10,000 voucher, for “R7,000” – but it actually cost them nothing.

3. Vitality Money

For this, you need to sign up to Discovery Bank. There are a bunch of options, and as I was to learn the hard way, the free tier will do nothing for you – don’t bother! However, even on the lowest paid tier, you will reap some rewards. The sweet spot is the black card (I think about R400/m) and the purple tier (most pricey) is not worth it, unless you fly overseas like 2+ times a year. I landed on the Platinum tier, and am happy for now, while I transition away from FNB. It’s taking me a while as there are so many things to finish properly before migrating (Cellphone contract, SARS, plus others that take time, including getting a child’s passport), but that isn’t why we’re here…

As you can expect, the trick again (like with Drive and Exercise) is to behave well. Get rid of debt, save for retirement, spend wisely each week and month, and you get rewarded. I’m still early on in my journey, but am already getting 50% back in healthy food, which equates to about R1,200/m in cold hard cash, and another R600-800/m from other rewards. Of course, there is also the huge benefit of getting a pretty dismal % back on every card swipe. This is a huge deal as I think other banks are quite miserly on this one, and why not get a few hundred bob back each month just for doing something you would do anyways?

Conclusion and Caveats

To make all the trouble listed above worth it, you really need to go “all in”. You will need to change banks, change car insurance, get a fitness watch/device (Fitbit, Apple, Garmin etc), stay somewhat fit (not massively), make a point of doing a weekly check in of five minutes or so on the app/s (to earn your miles, on the game board), and mostly: deal with the extra mental burden of thinking about this all. It really does affect you to think “have I achieved my exercise goal” every, single, day. I am happy to do it because it makes me healthier and more aware of my health; other folks I know really loathe it, and I totally get it.

Most of all though, if you grasp the concept of making a huge mission towards planting an avocado or lemon tree – buying it, digging a huge hole, fertiliser, compost, disease control, watering – for the first few months, and then reaping the fruit of that tree for 10 or 20 years, and you think that concept is a great idea, then jump in. If it’s not appealing, then seriously, do not even bother to begin, because it’s a lot of admin for 1-4 months.